Anna fast in Mumbai
Anna has not lost.
He has gained in sympathy?
By Aditya Pradhan
The quick recall of Anna Hazare’s fast in Mumbai has many reasons, but least of them are the ones touted by media about the Lokpal’s half-the-battle-won prophesy. Though the preparations for the agitation at the MMRDA Ground in the expansive Bandra-Kurla Complex were well done, and the speeches made by Team Anna sharp and cogent, the turnout of people was not as much as it was expected. There were about 10,000 people in all, though such protests in Mumbai always have a tendency to accommodate a floating population.
In the recent past corporate India has been edgy with so many financial scandals coming too close for comfort. And many industry leaders were openly propagating a roll back of protests to the sanguine pre-Lokpal situation. The splurge of government ads on TV channels right from inane fertiliser consumption to North East tourism to family planning put paid to any attempt by media houses to regain vigor in Anna Hazare campaign.
Ever since the names of Swiss Bank account holders have been doing rounds in private conversations in the corporate world, the news of Naresh Goyal, founder-promoter of Jet Airways, receiving two notices from Income Tax authorities over a Swiss bank account in the name of Tail Winds, was the last straw to break the camel’s back. Tail Winds is the Isle of Man-based parent of Jet Airways which owns 79.99 per cent of the airline.
The no-show at Mumbai for Anna Hazare also reaffirmed the widely held belief that the metro city has little stomach for political and social movements. After the vicious attack by Ajmal Kasab and company on November 26, 2008 the surging college student crowd at a protest rally at Gateway of India heralded the rising public opinion against the government’s bad governance and its pussy-footing foreign policy. But the abysmal turnout of people in the following state elections confirmed the indifference of the people towards taking things to logical conclusions.
Many in the media have also highlighted the ‘politicisation’ of Team Anna during Hisar bi-elections, which seemed to have taken away the sheen. Team Anna had vociferously taken a stand against the Congress at Hisar for having scuttled an effective Lokpal Bill. The argument of ‘politicisation’of the anti-corruption movement is as specious as it can get. Anna Hazare has been consistently talking about the root cause of corruption that lies in politics and the existing Parliament democracy system. So the natural corollary would be to blame the government in power for watering down the Lokpal Bill. Arvind Kejriwal goes to the extent of saying that an effective Lokpal Bill cannot come into existence because the Congress Party high-command of Sonia and her son Rahul Gandhi are beneficiary of corruption in the party and the political system. The desperation of the Congress Party to make sure Lokpal Bill does not stand the test of time emanates from fear that a strong Lokpal will ultimately subsume the Congress, according to Arvind Kejriwal. No one in the past has said it so succinctly that the CBI is used as a tool for political games played against unwieldy but corrupt supporters of the government like Mayawati and Lalu Prasad Yadav.
The moot point is why should the anti-corruption movement be apolitical and sway in a vacuum when the game is all about politics and politicians? Also, politics is the special-purpose-vehicle in a thriving democracy to bring about change. So many social reformers like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had successfully taken to politics to achieve their goal. Did anyone ask social reformers to refrain from politicising their cause?
At MMRDA Ground in Mumbai Anna Hazare also mentioned the complicity of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram in stifling the protest against corruption. In Bangalore and Delhi Anna Hazare had said that the Union Home Minister would have been in jail if there was a strong Lokpal Bill to curb corruption at high places. Anna Hazare reveals in his criticism of the Prime Minister saying that Dr Manmohan Singh is useless as he simply does not assert himself in the decisions-making process of the government. The response of the Congress Party to all these allegations has been a deafening silence. And surprisingly, the news media has failed to ask these pertinent questions in national debates.
Though there could be some ennui, weariness and fatigue in the protests against corruption, it is early to say if the movement is fizzling out. For all one knows it could be that the winter is spoiling the show.?